Is WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) so flawed that it has caused Microsoft to flag over half a million genuine Windows users as pirates?
An article on InformationWeek does the math on the statistics released the other day by Microsoft relating to WGA and comes up with a figure for the number of users affected - over 500,000.
From the article:
Microsoft has been tight-lipped about the false positive numbers, but Tuesday Lazar said it was "less than half a percent." At that rate, as many as 571,000 people have been incorrectly identified as pirates.
Is this figure correct? Is it close to the mark? I don't know. As far as I know, only Microsoft knows the true figure and I've repeatedly asked them to give me a solid figure. The closest to a figure that I've come is "a handful". If this number of 500,000 is even remotely close to the true figure, then "a handful" classes as the understatement of the year.
Accusing half a million legitimate Windows users is a serious matter. Being accused of being a pirate is no laughing matter. How much time has been wasted on false positives? How many people who had genuine Windows licenses have given Microsoft more money when they didn't need to.
Being falsely accused of being a pirate is bad enough, but the issue goes deeper than that. It's a matter of trust. User need to be able to trust Microsoft with the power that WGA gives the company, and at present it's clear that there is huge distrust. One way Microsoft can start to build trust is to be clear about how many genuine Windows systems have been wrongly flagged as non-genuine and be open and clear about what they are doing to reduce the impact that WGA has on genuine Windows users. Until then, people who know what WGA is will be wary of this technology.